Last night, Jonathan Lerner, chair of the Conservation Advisory Council, presented Hudson's natural resources and open space inventory to the Common Council. In making the presentation, he reminded the Council that state enabling legislation directs CACs to complete such an inventory, and when it has been adopted by the local legislature, the legislature may also pass a resolution to transform the CAC into a Conservation Board, with a formal role in the review process of projects proposed in the city.
In presenting the document, Lerner explained that the CAC did not create the data presented in the inventory. Instead, they brought together information that existed in other places. He explained that the inventory defines the most important conservation issues and vulnerabilities for the city. He stressed that the inventory was not a plan. Rather, it should inform planning. He urged that the document be part of any conversation about zoning changes and a revised comprehensive plan. He advised that the Planning Board should be guided by the information contained in the inventory. He also stressed that the inventory is a dynamic thing. He noted that all the maps in the inventory, which he called "the spine" of the document, exist in digital form and can be updated.
Lerner told the Council that the CAC was working on a resolution adopting the natural resouces and open space inventory that would be presented to the Council in June. He told the Council that the CAC would not to asking to be designated a Conservation Board but rather wished to remain an advisory council and would be recommending that city policy be adopted to determine when issues should be referred to the CAC.
When Lerner had finished his presentation, Timothy O'Connor, who has been a steadfast critic of the CAC and the inventory, told the Council that the obligations of the Hudson River Estuary Program grant the CAC had received were fulfilled with the completion of the inventory and its presentation to the Common Council. The Council was under no obligation to accept or adopt the document, which he called "problematic, or even fraudulent." O'Connor's major issue with the inventory has been the sea level rise projections the CAC used, which in the past he has called "outrageously inflated" and warned they would encourage "potential fanatical resolutions."
COPYRIGHT 2019 CAROLE OSTERINK
Because there are two sets of sea-level rise projections in the broad scientific community, it's reasonable to ask why the CAC was so determined to feature only one of them to the total exclusion of the other? Does that sound like "science"?
Moreover, the dire set of predictions championed by the CAC is actually the minority view in the world, and one which the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change holds in "low confidence" for its untestable and doubtful methodology (to quote the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report as well as the US National Climate Estimate).
So what's so threatening about the lesser sea-level rise projections that our unscientific CAC not only censored them entirely, but at the first opportunity would commit the city and individual residents alike to adopt expensive "adaptability" strategies for conditions the UN claims are "very unlikely" (AR5, Working Group 1, p. 1185).
As a homeowner concerned about the City's unnecessary and wasteful spending, it's easy to spot the pattern of Progressive office-holders attempting to "out-Progressive" one another, and with no adults in the room responsible enough to push back. (Actually, there was one disinterested voice on the CAC, but she didn’t stand a chance with that bunch.)
It should be apparent to anyone that Hudson's CAC is more hellbent on influencing the City's regulatory scheme than it is either honoring the principles of empiricism or even desiring to understand the natural world around us. And if the latter must take a backseat to achieving measurable policy results, then the question must be asked anew, How in the world is that "science"?
To someone who knows a thing or two about actual science, our new Natural Resource Inventory looks more like someone's expensive vanity project, and one that will become more expensive the more it's used to inform the City's planning decisions.
It would be better, and wiser, to acknowledge that the inventory suffered immeasurably from the loss of our thieving, absconding consultants. With too few funds left over to produce a more balanced report (repeatedly cited as the reason the document is so slanted), the incomplete and much-diminished inventory should be left on the shelf for now.
In the words of the state Grant Coordinator, "Once the NRI document is completed, the contractual obligation is met. Whatever the City decides to do with the NRI afterward is up to the City's discretion."
While the stated plan is to regularly update the inventory anyway, why not wait for fresher eyes, and for contributors who actually understand and admire science?
In the meantime, there's no reason why the NRI can't be trotted out whenever the City is looking for new grants.
But please, don't reward such a poor invention simply because your friends worked on it. Have a mind for its consequences, and for our neighbors who don’t have the wherewithal to articulate such nonsense when they see it.
Were the Common Council or Planning Board members to take further actions based on the Natural Resource Inventory (NRI), or for that matter on any related recommendations of the so-called Conservation Advisory Council that created it, there'd be nowhere for those officials to hide that didn't put the question of their integrity front and center.
Since early 2016, which is when the CAC deliberately abandoned the principles of science for a preferred political outcome (and thanks to the efforts of residents plus a single CAC member, no member of the CAC can plead ignorance), the NRI process became a battleground over one issue alone: integrity.
But doesn't the new NRI merit more than questions about integrity? Well no, it doesn't.
If a real scientist is asked to compare apples and oranges and her solution is to make it appear as if oranges don't exist, then it's unknowable if the results have even learned anything about apples. To avoid being skewed, empiricism needs the oranges too.
When empirical ground rules are abandoned, the legitimacy of any inquiry becomes hopelessly tainted through in through. When political considerations steer the scientific enterprise, as happened in the present case, then the very premise that science conveys its own meanings goes out the window.
Just recall the pseudo-science of Stalin's USSR, and especially the infamous Lysenko chapter.
For having pretended that oranges simply don’t exist (think: apple-and-oranges), the CAC knowingly behaved as fraudulently as Lysenko did.
But rather than look the other way, telling ourselves that this or that infraction is too small to matter in the big picture, I'd ask readers not to add to the undoing of science (and civilization) at any level. Have some integrity.
Even beyond their serial misrepresentations, as if taking a page from Lysenko and his master, the CAC members actively sought to eliminate dissent from their own apples-only mission. Aside from the willingness of the Common Council and Gossips to allow comments, the group would have succeeded too.
Unfortunately, the NRI is wholly suspect because the ostensibly "scientific" activity that produced it was actually unrelated to science. Indeed, it undermined science.
I submit that anyone who sees a value in the NRI is either exposing their ignorance about science (not to mention being uninformed about the utterly dishonest way in which the NRI was achieved), or they themselves lack integrity.
(If you understand the first comment above, then you'll know that it can only be one or the other: ignorance or want of integrity.)
If everyone had integrity then integrity would never be an issue. Why it is that some of us lack integrity is a whole 'nother question as they say, and also a much older one.